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How many slaves work for you? (8 ways to break free of toxic work cultures)

Welcome if you’re new!

Continuing along the theme of shorter Wise Wednesdays, here are the key insights I gathered over the past week from reflecting over various events I took part in.

A total of 34 slaves work for me. That’s my estimated slavery footprint. What’s yours? (find out here).

I was horrified to discover this after a seminar at Birkbeck Business School on the Dark Side of International Trade. But as the person who alerted us to our slavery footprint (a highly fair trade-conscious, modern slavery expert) had a footprint of 38, I felt a little less alarmed.


I was reminded that slavery is on a spectrum and that we all have a role to play in the world while taking a stand for our own happiness and fulfilment.

[Read on or watch the video below.]

Remember the bigger picture and know your true power

Every time you tune in to the bigger picture and your place in it, you see links and connect with people beyond your immediate sphere of activity and comfort.

Every time, you speak up for yourself pointing out problems in the system, you speak up for others affected by that system through a ripple effect.

You reduce toxicity in the global work and business culture.

You may think you’re a drop in the ocean. But the ocean is made up of drops…

Lead sustainably

Earlier this week I was invited to share my experience of founding, leading and handing over the Coaching Network I set up at the Royal Society of Arts (nothing to do with arts by the way, and all to do with societal change including the reinvention of work). Here were my five insights:

- Starting something only requires one person

- Growing and sustaining something requires a team

- Practice compassionate ruthlessness:

  • There’s a time for talking/ideating and there’s a time for taking action/implementing. Most people are comfortable with planning and ideating but don’t want to sacrifice their popularity or comfort in order to achieve something.

  • The antidote to doubt is commitment. Sense when it’s time to make a decision and make it. That’s the essence of leadership (including self-leadership). And if it’s your life we’re talking about, no one else but you should be making decisions about it! Otherwise, you would be giving someone else licence to treat you as either a child or a slave.

- Know your blind spots: I can be a little too ruthless sometimes, mostly with myself…Self-awareness creates psychological safety for yourself and others, which I wrote about last week.

- Aim for something impossible: The truth is anything outside your current known world, outside your comfort zone will seem impossible if not totally hidden from view. So any worthwhile goal has to feel impossible to your current self.

Face uncertainty emotionally and practically

Last week, I stepped in at short notice to replace a colleague leadership coach and deliver a group coaching to a wonderful consultancy (Good Innovation) on uncertainty…In the past, I would have focused on academic facts and frameworks. Now, I focus on the process and it leads to a much better experience. I’ve learned that embracing uncertainty, turns it into opportunity.

As I often tell my clients: what you resist, persists. We live in a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous). There’s no point relying on stable ground externally.

Choose your game and play with conviction.

Or as the man who faced the most uncertain period in his country’s history but managed to use the opportunity to abolish slavery said: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” - Abraham Lincoln.

Have a great week,


p.s. Join the next webinar 3 rd of April 6pm UK.

Breaking out of toxic work cultures requires embracing uncertainty.

In this webinar, I’ll share powerful insights and strategies on

- facing the unknown in work and life, - taking smart leaps and - co-creating your future with wisdom and joy.

We’ll also have time for questions and perhaps a little hot seat coaching for brave hearts!

Sign up here and see you next week!

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